Lincoln will be one of the first areas in the country where a new 111 NHS number will be trailed. The new number, given to the NHS by OFCOM, will compliment the existing 999 emergency call number.
The new number aims to make it easier for patients to access care, without having to go through the busy urgent call lines. Trials will begin later in the year, but will not be available to call until 2011.
If all goes well, the new service will be advertised before it goes live.
111 will hold information on who is best to call for your emergency, such as referral walk-in centres or a GP — if it isn’t deemed a 999 emergency. This would help reduce waiting times in A&E, and make more ambulances available.
“People know to dial 999 if they are in a life-threatening situation but we recognise that in other circumstances it is not so obvious to know where to turn to for help, particularly if it is outside normal GP surgery hours or if you are away from home,” said Dr Ruth Livingstone, a GP and regional clinical lead for the 111 programme.
The number does not replace existing numbers, and whenever a patient knows who to call they should continue to do so; for instance, their GP surgery’s number to make a routine appointment, or 999 for problems such as chest pains.
The initiative comes to the region after a report from 2008 by From Evidence to Excellence (PDF) which is looking to transform local healthcare over the next 10 years. The public said that they often find it confusing about where to go for help in non-emerency situations.